Emergent Technologies

Nuking Bugs out of PalletsNuking Bugs out of Pallets

By Lindsay R. Mohlere

There’s a new wrinkle to the RF vacuum kiln drying technology that was introduced several years ago as an alternative to the established way to dry lumber.

Dielectric Heating

Last December, a new technology that uses dielectric heating and radio frequency (RF) energy to destroy invasive pests hiding in wood products was demonstrated at Penn State’s University Park Campus, in hopes of bringing the technology closer to commercial marketplace.

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. logs are processed into wooden shipping pallets, which makes eliminating wood-burrowing pests a big deal. Compared to conventional heat practices, the RF treatment offers enhanced ability to terminate wood insect and nematode pests.

The demonstration, which was observed by regulatory and wood products industry professionals from the U.S. and Canada, validated the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of the RF technology for pallet sanitation.

Dielectric heating is also known as electronic heating, radio frequency heating, and high frequency heating. It is a process in which a dielectric material (e.g. wood, ceramics, paper, or glass) is heated by a radio frequency (RF) alternating electric field, radio wave, or microwave electromagnetic radiation.

Nuking Bugs out of PalletsAccording to international trade agreements, wood packaging material, including wooden pallets, crates, and chips must be debarked, treated, and inspected to be pest-free. Invasive bugs like the emerald ash beetle and the Asian long-horned beetle have found a home in the U.S. after being introduced via untreated wood pallets. These pests continue to wreak havoc and have caused nearly $120 billion a year in damage to forests, ecosystems, and agricultural crops.

Developed by Penn State scientists John Janowiak and Kelli Hoover, the technology is designed to heat wood using electromagnetic penetration, much like a microwave oven. The wood is heated from the inside-out causing the core to heat rapidly destroying burrowed pests.

Currently, pallets are sanitized by heat treating the wood in kilns or by fumigating with methyl bromide, which is being phased out. The RF technology will be faster and more cost-efficient than conventional kilns, which will help decrease energy costs.

However, there are certain challenges the technology must overcome to make the innovation “mill ready.” The biggest hurdle will be convincing people in the industry who have used the same kiln heating methods for the last 50 years that there’s a new kid on the block with a better, more efficient, and less expensive way to do things.

Finnish Smart Tires

In the past few columns, I’ve written about telematics and how it is applied in devices that are used to communicate machine and operator efficiency, in addition to optimizing machine maintenance and diagnostics data along harvest parameters. All the major manufacturers have telematic options, and now Finnish manufacturer Nokian Tyre has jumped into the fray with what is billed as “the smart tire.”

Similar to the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) that has been fitted to passenger vehicles since the 2008 model year, when they were made mandatory in the United States, the Nokian Tyres Intuitu combines sensor-equipped smart tires with a mobile application that records the sensor data from commercial, industrial, and agricultural tires.

Designed to be user-friendly, plug-and-play, the application will keep the operator informed about tire pressure and temperature, while warning about possible anomalies and helping to prevent tire damage.

Like other telematic systems, the digital real-time data is communicated to a smart phone application that informs the operator, helping to keep the machinery operational by minimizing downtime and increasing production. In the future, integrating the smart tire functions with the data section on a forestry machine screen will provide crucial data for both the operator and the fleet manager.

“Many people still see tires as just tires — a piece of rubber between your machine and the ground,” said Toni Silfverberg, head of Sales & Marketing at Nokian Tyres. “With Nokian Tyres Intuitu, your tires are no longer forgotten pieces of rubber, but smart, active components they rightfully should be.”

Tigercat Launches LogOn

The new Tigercat LogOn system reportedly allows easy access to detailed machine data and diagnostics at the worksite. With a mobile app, users can access the system within 45 feet of the machine.

Operators open the Tigercat Mobile App on their smartphone, select the LogOn icon, and connect to the secure Wi-Fi hot spot to enter the system, where they have access to detailed activity charts, stem count, and production volume, important failure cause, and repair information, along with operator and service manuals. Data is displayed with an easy-to-use mobile interface. No cellular coverage is needed. An optional satellite modem allows access in the world’s most remote locations.

Available as standard equipment on all new 2020 Tigercat machines, the LogOn system collects data automatically and provides extensive built-in reporting and analytics. No operator training is required.

That’s a Wrap!

Stay safe out there.


TimberWest November/December 2013
March/April 2020

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Emergent Technologies
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Guest Column
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